Ever hemmed and hawed about your selection from today’s trendy yet Brobdingnagian-esque restaurant menus? Of course you have. You know the hardship of which I’m about to speak. You’ve been on the front lines of struggle. Perhaps not “pass-me-my-bayonet-this-is-about-to-get-ugly” struggle. More like the downhill part of mile 2.8 of a 3-mile race kind of struggle, when victory is in sight yet achingly out of reach.
I know, too. I’ve been there. Recently, in fact.
This particular battle begins on a gloriously shimmering late Sunday afternoon. We head out to dinner with the in-laws to a restaurant known for their hot-rod-red crustaceans. Let’s define “we”: my husband, me and our 2.5 kids. “America’s ideal family-size” according to Gallup’s 2007 poll. Although at this juncture, having just given birth, I feel more like the 0.5.
The restaurant relishes their marine delicacy offering so fervently that they’ve given their establishment and identity to this claw-bearing, brightly-colored ocean bug. As it is my first time at, you guessed it, Red Lobster, I’m super-excited and hungry, too.
Truth be told, my excitement is on par with a child going to Disneyland for the very first time. Not because I’m a fan of fiery-colored Nephropidae, but because I haven’t left the house in days. After all, I just gave birth to my .5 child. A sweet-smelling, gawgeous (New Yawk shout-out even though I’m from LA) roly-poly sweetie who popped out of me like a crescent roll from a pressurized can and thrived parasitically, and adorably, from my more-than-ample supply of breast milk.
So we brave a rare outing to do what Americans love most—stuffing their pie holes.
Right. Now where were we? Ah, yes. The extensive menu and hunger (lack of focus is a postpartum thing—sorry, not sorry). Giant menu pondering reminds me of Wayne and Garth reviewing their contract to sign over the Wayne’s World rights to executive Benjamin: “Mmmhmm, yes. I like what you’ve done here. Yes. Yes.”
My youngest daughter is surely a bright little thing, but at seven days old she hasn’t mastered reading. Tragic, I know. She’s enrolled in Kumon and starts in three days. Luckily, I accurately guess her preferred dining choice and being amply supplied (as mentioned exhaustively before), she is more than good.
As I continue meticulously combing through the deviously-long menu, my hunger as palpable as the drool on my lip, I whip on my breastfeeding cover. My daughter, you see, is modest and prefers to consume her liquid gold in the dim hue of my 100% organic cotton, brown and teal paisley print nursing cover. She’s set. One less distraction from the action of choosing my long-awaited feast.
As my milk flows, a murmur buzzes up from the table behind us. A patron nods his head in my direction and barks at his server, “I’ll have the tilapia with a side of breast milk.” Raucous laughter ensues—at his table, at least. Even the server spits out a hearty chortle, which frankly bums me out a bit. Until then, he’d seemed like a nice guy. And at almost the same moment, I feel bad for him—poor guy, he’s just trying to earn a tip.
His tip and my milk flow and faith in the kindness of humanity dwindle.
Now, people, I’ve heard of secret menus but this? Brace yourself, big-time spoiler alert in 3. 2. 1. These are some of the secret menus that I’m privy to: In-N-Out has “animal style” (it’s basically just extra condiments and grilled onions). Chipotle offers a secret (shhh) (why are we whispering this isn’t a library) quesarito, which is just the regular burrito but grilled. And finally Shake Shack offers (or did offer) a peanut butter and bacon ShackBurger. According to TMZ, Elvis actually resurrected himself for this momentous occasion and has returned safely six-feet under because the offer didn’t include bananas.
In all of my extensive research on restaurant secret menus nowhere do I find “a side of breast milk” offered to patrons of any chain restaurant, fast-food joint, Michelin-starred restaurant, or food truck.
My reconnaissance work is ongoing, but you too can seek out the veracity of this un-urban legend: If you’re ever in a suburb of a suburb, deep in the heart of heartland (lauded for their progressive rights for women and their advanced, almost militant approach to gender equality) then keep one ear to the ground. Because you may be in the presence of an adult, pining for the sweet nectar his mother once nourished him with, and he may confirm that, yes, breast milk is on the secret menu.
In the meantime, keep feeding your newborn in public from your breast or any which way, whatever works for you. Just please make sure the baby is fed and loved. Feed yourself and your baby with nourishment and love, and let the haters chomp on a side of mind your own damn business.
About the Author
Molly England aspires to be a decent human, mother, and partner. Her writing is published in The Washington Post, Huffington Post, the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, Salon, and more. Her written words and public voice shed light on parenting and women’s issues. She lives in New York with her husband and their three children. Learn more at mollyengland.com. And follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.